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View Full Version : How did the Pros become Professionals???



Algae998
10-26-2007, 06:23 AM
Hello one and all,

I have a few questions for the professionals of the 3d world, or those enroute to making a living in this field.

Currently I am in my second year, first semester of getting my associates degree at a local community college here in NY, and I couldnt be more frustrated. I want to get a bachelors degree in animation, visual effects or anything along those lines. When I look at other colleges they all seem to be "film and animation" but with a strong emphasis on film, such as scripting, set building and casting...not interested.

My question for the pros, or those who are on their way to becoming pros, is; how did you get to where you are now? Did you go to specific film/animation schools, generalized colleges, or did you teach yourself and work your way into the industry? What are some of the problems or things you experienced while working towards it?
I realize this is a competitive career field, but does anyone have any suggestions? Ive talked with a number of my college's advisers and they dont know squat haha.:grumpy:

All I know is that my free time volunteeringly consists of researching various programs/methods or modeling, animation and 3d tracking, which is what I love doing and all I want to do. The part thats frustrated me is that as my two years are coming to a close, all that Ive learned is through my own research and not from school.

Thanks in advance!

Captain Obvious
10-26-2007, 07:18 AM
It's all about skills, really: Artistic skills, technical skills and people skills. I learned all of that on my own, and as have many of my colleagues.

archijam
10-26-2007, 08:10 AM
There is of course no one answer, tho you will hear alot "get a job - learn in the industry..."

However, there are direct examples (http://www.newtek.com/forums/showthread.php?t=74780&) of what is happening right now, with up-and-comers. The opinion of Rid and some of the oldschoolers will be invaluable, tho what you will hear alot is that it's not roses all the way (from what I understand) :)

j.

SplineGod
10-26-2007, 02:39 PM
Ive yet to ever find a studio that cares if you went to school or not. They only care that you have the talent, skills etc. A good demo reel helps and having others who can vouch for you helps even better.
The problem with school in many cases is that you get saddled with a huge amount of debt which isnt a good thing when trying to get into a job for the first time. You are competing with others with no such disadvantage and simply having a certificate from some school will not get you any higher pay.
Im a lot of cases having the stigma of 'student' or 'recent grad' can generally work against you paywise. Many places look at 'students' as an excuse to pay you less regardless of how good you are. Education is important, how you go about it isnt so much. :)

anim8r
10-26-2007, 06:38 PM
Gotta agree with what's been said. Larry is spot on. Demo reels are paramount in getting in the door. That's really the only thing I look at when hiring someone, well, that and to make sure their personality is a match with us.

It's extremely important to network with the artistic community. Getting hired as an intern/part-timer is a great way to make future contacts and gain some experience (it will also help you build a demo reel). If you plan on staying in school, I'd get a part time job at a graphics shop imediately. It's been my experience there are plenty of jobs until you actually "Need" one ;). So it's best to plan ahead and have a few offers ready for when you want to go full time.

Self education (and a lot of practice) will give you an edge. They really only train you the basics at school unless you really luck out.

And I wouldn't dismiss film classes, especially if you want to be an animator. We use the exact same tools they do; albeit virtual. I spent a lot of my free time and trained under a professional photographer for over a year and the lessons I learned are still valuable 12 years later.

Algae998
10-26-2007, 07:17 PM
Thank you all for the great advice!
Ive been looking at a couple of different schools that more specifically deal with the virtual world as oppose to a college that offers it. Bummer that Id have to move around the country quite a lot, since there isnt too much happening here in western NY. I had just finished reading an article tonight in the HDRI 3D magazine (issue 15) where the author was describing the same frustrations as I, but they ended up going to the DAVE school in Flordia.
As of right now all of my 3d studies are independent and through my own research/very helpful tutorials. I can definitely understand how an amazing demo reel will benefit this direction.

Thank you for the insights thus far!

JeffrySG
10-26-2007, 08:15 PM
Also keep in mind that being a 3d Pro doesn't only mean working VFX field. There are probably more of us here on these boards that are making a nice living using 3d but not working in the VFX field than there are who are in the VFX industry. So much of it has to do with different opportunities that come your way, people you know, where you want to live and what will make you happy along the way. :)

Steamthrower
10-26-2007, 09:39 PM
Jeff, your comments on location struck me, as it's something that I have personally wondered about. I think that basically any location is ripe for general 3D work, i.e. commercials, arch viz, etc., but VFX in particular?

I'm in the Midwest. I like it here. I'd like to literally spend my life here. But VFX in Little Rock, AR, a city 300,000 people? Is it really important to be right there with your clients, or is it possible to work remotely?

Basically, what I see is this. There are a lot of young guys here on the forums who are in or have just graduated college. This class of folk includes me. VFX is glamorous stuff. Generating explosions and bits of debris is fun stuff. That sounds like a cool career to us, plus it pays well. But does it require living in Los Angeles/similar multimedia hub?

JeffrySG
10-26-2007, 10:54 PM
Well, I don't personally work in the VFX field. For a while I (many years ago) was thinking of it and sending out demo reels, etc. And when I was I knew that I would be willing to go wherever a job may take me. It would probably be better for someone who actually works in the VFX field answer that. I would think in the beginning you would need to willing to relocate to wherever the work is though. The truth is that there are facilities all over. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to go where it takes you? And yes, if you lived in the LA area you'd probably have the most things available locally (in the States anyway).

I have no doubt that there are some facilities that you'd be happy to work at in the Midwest as well though. You have to ask yourself what's the priority? Best job? Location? etc...

Also, I personally don't know how well VFX pays. Sure, I know if your a top character animator you can make great money. But what about the guy who is rotoscoping or matchmoving all day long. Just so you know... everything pays well if you're the best at it. I'm just trying to say that try to be open to all the different industries out there. If working in the VFX field is what you know you want to do; then do what it takes and work your hardest.

Matt
10-27-2007, 05:34 AM
Gotta agree with what's been said. Larry is spot on. Demo reels are paramount in getting in the door. That's really the only thing I look at when hiring someone, well, that and to make sure their personality is a match with us

Didn't the guy who did the "I Will Survive" dancing alien movie get hired by Pixar on the strength of it, because it showed he understood character animation?

I'm sure I read that somewhere.

CAClark
10-27-2007, 07:23 AM
Jeff, your comments on location struck me, as it's something that I have personally wondered about. I think that basically any location is ripe for general 3D work, i.e. commercials, arch viz, etc., but VFX in particular?

I'm in the Midwest. I like it here. I'd like to literally spend my life here. But VFX in Little Rock, AR, a city 300,000 people? Is it really important to be right there with your clients, or is it possible to work remotely?

Basically, what I see is this. There are a lot of young guys here on the forums who are in or have just graduated college. This class of folk includes me. VFX is glamorous stuff. Generating explosions and bits of debris is fun stuff. That sounds like a cool career to us, plus it pays well. But does it require living in Los Angeles/similar multimedia hub?

It's unusual to work in film vfx and not be 'in house' so to speak. Much is short term contract work, which while generally beinf renewed if you are good, is by no means a dead cert. Most post production houses, such as Framestore-CFC where I worked for a year or so, wouldn't entertain people working remotely. It simply isn't feasable in a full on production pipeline

Being self taught I have been quite sceptical of DAVE School and such, but I have worked with people who were at DAVE School, and they weren't ****, but even so, a good degree of post grads are really not all that. It needs dedication, and a thirst for knowledge that drives you to persue your dream ALL the time, not go to school and get a certificate and hope it all falls in to place. It's an uphill struggle which ever route you go, but the prize is there for the taking either way.

Cheers!

hrgiger
10-27-2007, 07:41 AM
You don't have to go to school to work in 3D but doing so can help you through either a company recruiting from your school or a school can help with direct placement. But a friend of mine who works for a game company in Ann Arbor, MI says the hiring is always through the work they see on your demo reels.

JeffrySG
10-27-2007, 10:56 AM
It's also interesting to go to sites such as:
http://www.creativeheads.net/search.aspx
...and put in different cities or states... you can see what and how much is available in different locations and it will give you an idea of the job market and what the current needs are....

Stooch
10-27-2007, 04:47 PM
Generating explosions and bits of debris is fun stuff. That sounds like a cool career to us, plus it pays well. But does it require living in Los Angeles/similar multimedia hub?

short answer.

YES.

someday, once you have the contacts, maybe you can start your own thing and bring the work to you. Unless you have such a kick *** reel that you can score big gigs on your own. until then, you gotta come to the work.

Sarford
10-27-2007, 06:17 PM
Wow, I realy can't beleive everyone who's saying that you don't need school!


Ofcourse you can train yourself, and if you wanna be a 'buttonpusher' that is a very feasable option. But if you wanna be more, if you strive to be a character designer, art director, designer etc school is a very valueble thing!

It will cost you money but you'll get four years where you can spend every waking minute in a creative enviroment honing your creative skills. Being chalenged by your tutors and collegue students to get better all the time. Being learned (the hard way mostly) to think about what you are doing (designwise) and why you are doing it that way. Being learned about composition, drawing, sculpting, color theory, art theories, art history. Being able to visit the many lectures being given by guest lecurers. Discusing your work with your tutors and fellow students. Discussing art and design in general. Being in an enviroment with people that want the same as you want. Experiencing many different views on things, many different aproaches.

Yeah, you could learn yourself a program or two and some colortheory and maybe find something on composition. But you'd miss somuch of what is readely available in an art school that it is hard to list it all here.
Besides, you'd be doing it all alone...

If you can afford it I'd say go for it.

Algae998
10-27-2007, 09:02 PM
Id have to agree with Sarford, even though Im only in the beginning of my second year at school. I guess Im expecting too much out of my community college, but some of the digital art school look amazing...based on the student demo reels Ive seen.

The one thing Ive found so helpful about learning anything in school is that if you have a problem, you can ask for help. These forums are an amazing tool for getting help and fixing problems, but it doesnt beat sitting down with a professor and working through a tough spot. All Ive learned in these 3d apps or VFX programs has come from online forum assistance, tutorials or dvds, but it takes a long amount of time to get the specific and correct info youre looking for and that can get pretty frustrating.

But, until I master* these programs, I will always come to the forums and throw a round of applause to those who help out!

JeffrySG
10-28-2007, 12:08 AM
I don't think anyone is saying college or schooling is bad. It's just that people doing the hiring don't really care much. If schooling will make you a better artist/designer/etc.. then it's worth it. If it doesn't help you then it probably wasn't. Great artist will always be in demand. Whatever is the thing that will make you great is the thing that you should be doing.

Personally I'm really glad I went to a four year college. 90% of it didn't influence my career at all but the 10% that did really made a difference and an impression.

meathead
10-29-2007, 01:13 PM
I am in your neck of the woods! You can work from anywhere really, as an animator, but it is easier when you can meet clients face to face.

College is the reason I was able to get every interview I ever had. Past grads from the same program made it easier for me to get into the door.

That being said, college is generally too involved in turning out well rounded individuals, and teaching a little of everything. No program teaches very much 3D animation for example, and if they scraped it, it was Maya or Max most likely.

Therefore, on the job training and learning is the only place most of us will develope skills.
So, unfortunately, you may need to relocate most likely, and work for other people until you are capable of going on your own (if thats something that you want).

But its good to see another WNY LWer! Maybe now we can start a user group?!?!

GATOR
10-29-2007, 08:21 PM
Big, capital letters on the "IMHO" declaration here. I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong on their comments, but here's my experience on a very valid question. Maybe someone might gleam something from it. It's a question I hear often.

Background: A foundation of radiographic pens, zip-a-rtone, stat cameras, floro-color and watercolor. Then the Compugraphic 4 came along worked my way through college (UF's College of Fine Arts class of '84) doing the above. The Mac came out and from the first 128 I was hooked. Twenty three years later I'm still plugging along. Have worked for companies and agencies across the country, at first for print, the broadcast. Ten years ago I started my own multimedia company because I never saw may family workin' for 'da man. I've hired a fair number of artists and animators over the last couple decades. History lesson: First animation was during the Gulf War I in 1991 with Swivel 3D and edited in Macromedia Director. Yikes.

Quick note, I've got 15 years experience of doing animations for broadcast, not film. This humble note may be enough for some to ignore the following notes if you're focused on Hollywood, which is cool. It's not a world I live in. Also, Iíve created very few animations for the web. Another world I donít live in. Anyway...

I've never hired anyone that didn't have a college degree.

This isn't a matter of prejudice. When I look at the choices on the table, the ones with degrees had a level of experience and maturity that I could count on. When you hire someone there's one single bottom line.

It's the bottom line.

Can this person make me (or the company that I worked for) money. That answer to that question will range from their ability to actually show up every day and do the job, to their skills. But skill alone will not cut the mustard. I need the work to be done, and if you're a complete *** and I can't work with you...I won't want to. Or will the rest of the team.

Trust me, I've met several people who thought they were the best animators in the world and we all laughed our heads off the second they walked out of the studio. You may have a great demo real, but that isn't the end of the road. Seldom will you have just ONE person do a whole project. If you're a free-lancer and can get a gig working from home or your studio, you might be able to not worry about personality conflicts, but you'll also miss a lot of growth that comes with working alongside other talented people. And I promise that this most absolutely will reflect in your ability to be an animator.

As a side note, I've worked with or have known several animators who went on to Hollywood to do great things...and they were all nice guys. Not one jerk I've ever met has made it.

And that takes me back to the college thing. Evey school will be different, but there is SOOOOO much to offer in being exposed to a huge variety of tastes and experiences from both professors and fellow students. I know I personally still draw from the ideas that I was exposed to over 20 years ago in school. But there's one more thing.

If you survived putting up with the BS of college for 4 years, you may have the maturity it takes to work with (fill in the blank) the company I'm hiring for at the moment. It shows me that you stuck with something and finished it. Yes. That matters. To me.

I absolutely agree that there are many who have done well without the above. But are we really talking about the rare geniuses, or are we talking about reality? And here's the funky thing...I love pre-madonnas. If you THINK you're the best, and you actually turn out to BE the best, I will jump on a land mine for you. I'll make sure you get the best raises and the most time off. I will talk to your co-workers to try to keep them from killing you. Why, because you make money. And the fact that I was one once (in my 20s, now 47). But before you play that card, you better make sure you got the deck in your favor.

Sound like a conflict? Well, if you act like a pre-madonna and you suck, then you're out of a job. If you can be managed and make the company money...that's what I get paid for. Ego is absolutely part of the business. Artists are usually the edgiest people to work with. My wife would most likely agree...part of the territory. Iíve always considered it part of the equation as well. If you can be wildly creative and still access the non-crazy side of your brain (thank you TO), itíll be a great service to your career.

So, in the end...

Skill will get you the job. Mandatory, gotta have it.

But, so will experience, good references, maturity and a solid sense of teamwork. College/training kicks in here.

And once you have the job you have to perform. After that, build your reel. The last corporate job I had, when I got a call about a former animator all HR allowed me to say was the dates when they began and left the job. Thus...

1) NETWORKING is everything.

2) Did I already say that NETWORKING is everything.

3) And go to school. You may think you're the best, so exposure to other ideas will most likely make you better. Sure, it'll cost a boatload of money. Welcome to the world.

You may want to move out of your folks house and conquer the world, but chances are that you're going to have to pay your dues like we all did. And that time when you're paying your dues, you'll most likely learn things you never considered, and often it has nothing at all do do with CG.

Again, this is ALL just my opinion based off my experience. I do have a great deal of respect for other opinions already stated. Heck, I've got Larry's stuff on my bookshelf (buy now if you don't have it).

GATOR

Andyjaggy
10-30-2007, 11:26 AM
Go to school. Get a degree. Teach yourself the stuff on your own time. You won't get good by just going to school. You don't need a degree to get work doing this stuff. It will however open a few doors that would otherwise be closed. If that's worth 4 years and a lot of debt is completely up to you.

jthompson3d
11-05-2007, 02:01 PM
I went to school and wasn't bad, like my teacher told me in the 3d world: It is all in the artist, only thing school does for you is helps you move a little faster on learning it but it still comes down to the artist.

IMPERIAL
11-06-2007, 06:46 AM
Even you can learn almost all by your self you still need the pressure that is big part of being pro.... so if you think you are good enough...open a small studio..your own company.

steamthunk
11-13-2007, 12:31 PM
I've never hired anyone that didn't have a college degree.
...
This isn't a matter of prejudice. When I look at the choices on the table, the ones with degrees had a level of experience and maturity that I could count on. When you hire someone there's one single bottom line.
...
If you survived putting up with the BS of college for 4 years, you may have the maturity it takes to work with (fill in the blank) the company I'm hiring for at the moment. It shows me that you stuck with something and finished it. Yes. That matters. To me.


:agree: My view is the same. I own a business and am the hiring manager for software engineers. Especially in the late 1990s there were a lot of "software developers" who were not formally trained when everyone and their grandpa who could say Internet was interviewed. I have hired or made offers for non-degree people, but the degree people (or certs) have the edge in my mind for the above reasons.

I finished school. I know what I had to do to finish. It made mentally tougher, was the hardest I've ever had to work, I had top peers from around the world to challenge me and compete with, and made me a better rounded person. If I'm sitting across from someone who has done the same thing then that is a shared experience. When you really know absolutely nothing about a person aside from what is on a resume or a portfolio then that means a lot to me.

Of course, not all schools are created equal, but that's another topic. :)